In a few hours, I’m jumping on a plane to Chicago to speak at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference and I couldn’t be more excited!
This conference has had such a positive buzz about it since it started 3 years ago, and I can’t wait to be part of it.
What will I be talking about? Surprise, surprise: mid-level donors. You know they’re my favourite kind of donor, and I can’t wait to share some thoughts on them with the crowd.
My presentation is called “Telling mid-level donors the stories they want to hear”. I don’t want to give away all my secrets, but I will say this: if I’m saying that we need to tell mid-level donors the stories they want to hear, am I suggesting that we haven’t been?
The answer is yes.
So what stories have we been telling our mid-level donors that haven’t been working?
#1 – The brand story
I spoke about this in my post on “The Field of Dreams Myth”, as I call it. A lot of organizations have the instinct to brand their mid-level giving program – give it a name, a logo, and letterhead. This tactic is not off-base, but it’s not enough. (And all too often, it’s based on internal organizational needs vs. the needs of the donor.)
#2 – The variable paragraph story
Variable paragraphs are best practice in direct mail (and email, to a degree) and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. But, if we expect to inspire mid-level donors to step it up just because we call them “generous” in a variable paragraph, then we’re going to be sorely disappointed. We need to do more.
#3 – The closed envelope story
One of the most commonly used tactics is to send mid-level donors exactly what your regular donors get, but with a distinction – rather than a #10 envelope with your usual postage indicia, mid-level donors get their letter in a closed envelope with a real, live stamp on the front! Don’t get me wrong – it’s a classy touch, makes the package stand out in a pile of bills… but is this going to inspire donors to give at a new level? No.
#4 – An insert story (if they’re lucky)
Finally, the most we might do for mid-level donors to try to distinguish their experience from everyone else is to insert something extra into their package – maybe it’s a lift note from someone meaningful to them/the package, maybe it’s a small insert that expands on the funding priorities… And this comes from a great insight about mid-level donors wanting more from the organizations they support. More content! More behind-the-scenes info! More! An insert will take you part of the way, but on its own will it do enough? No.
The stories aren’t working.
I promise you I’ll talk to you about what stories will work in a few weeks.
Until then – what are you seeing that doesn’t work? What does?
Let me know in the comments!
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Written by Maeve Strathy
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.
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